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Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Florida roommates had no idea Gainesville man shot himself outside White House

GAINESVILLE ó Four days after he fatally shot himself outside the White House, a Florida manís apartment sat untouched by investigators on Tuesday. His roommates had not been questioned by police and didnít even know that he had died.

An open, empty handgun case sat on the unmade bed of Cameron Ross Burgess in the Gainesville apartment he shared with two others on a tree-lined street just a few blocks from the University of Florida campus, where he worked helping abused children. There were nine rounds still inside the gun case.

Justin Ford was distraught when told of his roommateís death by an Associated Press reporter, saying he had been texting Burgess for days about rent with no answer. He said he also hadnít heard of the shots fired outside the White House.

"I must have seen him four days ago or something," Ford said, adding that it wasnít unusual for Burgess to leave for a few days at a time. "Sometimes he would just leave and go on a camping trip or something."

Ford accompanied a reporter inside Burgessí room, and was shocked when he saw the gun case. Ford said the quiet, 6-foot-2, bearded man had been a gentle, generous roommate since he had moved in last August.

"I had no idea about him having a gun," he said.

Police say Burgess fired multiple shots outside the White House on Saturday before turning the gun on himself in front of dozens of onlookers. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were in Florida at the time.

The Metropolitan Police in Washington D.C., the lead investigative agency, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the shooting was still being investigated. Gainesville Police Department spokesman Officer Ben Tobias said he did not see "any records of requests for assistance from any agency regarding this incident."

Burgess worked as a clinical case manager at the University of Floridaís Child Protection Team, a unit that responds to child abuse over a wide area of central Florida.

Deborah Field, a friend and former co-worker, said Burgess was a magnet for the kids they helped, and had a "courageous laugh" and positive attitude in a highly traumatic environment.

She said she knew he had sought help from a psychiatrist in the past, and had been upset about the school shooting in Parkland in addition to job pressures.

"The stuff we saw and heard, no one should have to see and hear these things, but we do it" she said about working with abused children. "But he didnít show any signs that he was suicidal."

Burgess grew up near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated from Auburn University in 2013 with a psychology degree. A friend posting on his Facebook page recalled working with Burgess in Auburn at the Department of Human Resources, where Burgess assessed the safety of neglected and abused children. He had no criminal record, just a speeding ticket issued near Auburn in 2010.

Ashley Abell said she worked with Burgess at a Baptist-affiliated summer camp for children in Kentucky in 2012. "Cam was always encouraging and he had the best laugh. He didnít talk a lot, but it didnít cause concern," she said.

A mutual friend said Burgess had battled depression recently, Abell said, and the way he died left Abell in tears when she heard it.

"I would have never expected it from what I knew of his character. And it made me sad because I didnít keep up with him," she said, adding: "I worry about why it was in front of the White House."

Records show Burgess registered to vote as a Democrat in Gainesville, Florida, in May 2017. Field said he had been extremely upset when Trump was elected, but no more so than others she knew.

His social media feed included at least one photo of a gun, a semi-automatic handgun and bullets posted nearly six years ago.

His roommate Ford described Burgess as a traditional conservative and a "gamer," saying he spent hours in his room on his computer. A poster hangs on Burgessí bedroom wall for the game Skyrim. A dozen bottles of hard liquor sat next to a computer.

"He had friends here, it wasnít like he was some loner," Ford said.

A.C. Frieden, a novelist and attorney who was visiting Washington on Saturday, said he was with his wife at the north fence of the White House grounds about 10 minutes before two or three shots rang out. Several uniformed Secret Service officers stood casually nearby beforehand, he said, and there were no signs of any trouble until the shooting started.

"There was no yelling, no screaming. No verbal announcement of any kind. Just the shooting," he said. "That was what was so odd about it."

A report released Tuesday by the Metropolitan Police Department said police responded to gunshots outside the White House and found Burgess with a gunshot wound to the head and a gun by his right hand side.

The Secret Service said the shots were not aimed at the White House.

   
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